Will Boot Camp Make Me Buy a Mac?

UPDATE: Whoops, as the comments indicate, I clearly made an error. There will are currently no Intel-based G5s PowerMac desktops available. Only Intel-based Macs are able to run Boot Camp. So, unless I want a MacMini (which I don’t), there are currently no options for a Boot Camp-enabled Mac without a built-in monitor. Another Windows machine it is.

As I mentioned last week, I’ll soon be in the market for a desktop machine. Coincidentally, yesterday Apple announced Boot Camp, a beta application that enables you to easily run Windows and Windows programs on an Apple computer. Boot Camp will become part of Leopard, the next version of Apple’s operating system.

I’ve currently got a Windows desktop and an Apple laptop. Though I see the security and stability advantages of Apple OS X over Windows XP, I’m pretty much platform-agnostic. I use my desktop PC for everything, from games to Office apps to audio and (very occasionally) video editing. I just read this early review that graphically-intensive games like Doom 3 or Far Cry run smoothly under Boot Camp.

This Boot Camp news gave me pause. Should I consider getting a Mac instead of another Windows machine? One important note: I’m currently using a (gorgeous) 23″ Apple Cinema display, so I’m unlikely to buy an iMac (I don’t want or need dissimilar dual displays). So, it’s a G5 PowerPC or nothing. Let’s compare some specs. I’m configuring and pricing out the Windows system using Frontier PC’s site. That’s where I bought my last PC (apologies for the all caps–they’re from Frontier’s site). The specs are after the jump:

Power PC
Windows Desktop
  • Dual-core 2GHz PowerPC G5 processor
  • 1GHz frontside bus per processor
  • 1MB L2 cache per core
  • 512MB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-4200)
  • 160GB Serial ATA hard drive
  • 16x SuperDrive (double-layer)
  • Three open PCI-Express expansion slots
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6600 LE with 128MB GDDR SDRAM
  • Apple Keyboard & Mighty Mouse – U.S. English
  • Mac OS X – U.S. English
  • INTEL P4 DUAL-CORE S775 PENTIUM D 830 3.0GHZ, 800FSB, 2MB: 1MB CACHE
    PER CORE 800MHZ BOX (the fastest processor Frontier offers)
  • ASUS S775 INTEL 945P ATX 3PCI/1PCI-E 1X/1PCI-E16X 4DDR2
  • KINGSTON DDR2 512MB 533MHZ KIT 32MX64
  • SAMSUNG 160GB 7200RPM 9MS SATA 8MB CACHE SERIAL ATA
  • LG GSA-4165B DVD-RW DRIVE
  • GENWARE 18 IN 917K 4/2 ATX w/ 400W P4 P.S 1 (this is the case)
  • ASUS N6600 GEFORCE 6600 AGP8X, 128MB DDR
  • LOGITECH KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro
CAN $2,399.00 + tax CAN $1287.61 + tax

Apple’s performance data indicates that the G5 will outclass this machine by a significant margin (25 or 30%?). Here are a couple of independent tests which have different findings. Regardless, I’m willing to accept that the Mac is going to be somewhat faster than the PC.

But is ‘somewhat faster’ worth $1100? Heck, I could nearly buy two Windows PCs for the price of the G5.

While Boot Camp is exciting news, and I think it’ll be great move for Apple, that price difference is too huge to stomach. I’d imagine the difference would be smaller if we compared an iMac to a similar Windows desktop plus monitor, but that’s not on the table for me.

UPDATE #2: Here’s some benchmark data from CNet: “There’s no question: You’re going to have a noticeably better gaming experience on a Mac running Windows XP than Mac OS X.”

31 comments

  1. Not this again. Please, for the sake of our sanity, stop posting comparisons like these. Some people prefer to pay more money for better quality items. Shocking, right?

  2. Also, Boot Camp is only for the newer Intel-based macs, so why exactly are you using a PowerPC G5 in your comparison?

  3. m.Sherman: You may be surprised to learn that this is the first such comparison I’ve ever posted.

    Where are the Intel-based PowerPC G5’s? I can’t seem to find them on the site.

  4. ‘But is ‘somewhat faster’ worth $1100?’

    Most likely not. Luckily for Apple, a lot of people care about things other than raw computational speed.

    I wouldn’t pay $100 to make my PC 20% faster at the moment. It does everything I need and I never think to myself “Man, I wish this was faster”. Of course, I don’t edit video or play games. To each his own.

  5. @Darren what m.sherman is saying is that Bootcamp only works on intel-based Macs (ie, iMac or MacbookPro laptops)…a G5 PowerPC cannot run Windows XP natively…

  6. m: I figured as much. So, as it turns out, there are no currently Mac options to me if I want Boot Camp + my existing monitor?

  7. @Darren I suppose you could look at an intel mac mini…specs may not be up to par for you (namely gfx), but they are available in core solo/duo configurations and use external monis.

  8. Kind of an apples ‘n oranges comparison, seeing as Intel-based PowerMacs (or whatever they’ll be called) won’t be available until later this year — probably sometime around Fall.

  9. @Darren: agreed, while they get close to the iMac’s available speeds they surely pale compared to what we’ll see in the new “Power”Macs (whatever they’ll be called) later this year

  10. Is a MacBook Pro out of the question? I mean, do you really need a desktop machine when you can use the Cinema Display from the MBP while at home and it’s a laptop on the road.

    *shrug* It’s all in what you need. If you must have a desktop then you’ll need to look at the Mac mini or go elsewhere.

    Good luck on your search.

  11. Ian: I see that, but I’m confused about something. Given that both Macs and PCs will be using Intel processors and similar other components, won’t they be of roughly comparable speeds (ignoring the operating system differences for a moment)?

  12. I’m in the same position as you, Darren. I need a new computer in the next three months and I’m considering a switch from my old desktop PC to a Mac. I’d like to do some video editing of short films and the few experiences I’ve had with video on a PC have been a nightmare. For everything else, my PC is fine…

    Some people are suggesting that I buy a Macbook pro and a separate cinema display. Wouldn’t you consider a laptop yourself? If not, I’m curious to find out why?

  13. When it comes down to it, I guess I just don’t understand why you _need_ a desktop.

    My powerbook replaced my linux desktop, and even though i use it on an icurve laptop stand, with an external keyboard and trackball 99% of the time, I have not been jonesing for a new desktop.

    Must it be a desktop ? really?

  14. Darren: Good question. It’ll depend on how well-matched the rest of the system (memory, storage, networking, and so on) is to the processor; otherwise you may have a CPU that spends too much of its time waiting for data instead of crunching it. Apple usually does do a good job in that department, so an Intel-equipped Mac will likely be quicker than a poorly engineered white box. You may still come out ahead for running Windows apps (and be able to choose an AMD processor instead) by getting a well-built clone from Frontier, who do put together nice machines. But no OSX that way. Tough call.

    I’d be even more interested in virtualization on the Intel-based Macs. These new boxes should have enough grunt that the overhead from running OS X and Windows as guest systems should be acceptable, and I do like the idea of being able to avoid dual-booting.

  15. On the laptop vs. desktop question: It’s been my impression (and that impression may be outdated) that laptops don’t have the rendering power to, say, play graphically intenstive games.

    For example, a MacBook Pro only has “ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with up to 256MB memory on 16-lane PCI Express”. It’s my understanding that you need 256MB onboard your video card for graphically-intensive apps like games.

    Also, I already have a 12″ PowerBook which I’m still very happy with. Lastly, the laptops don’t look to be any cheaper than the G5 desktop.

  16. You could go for the macbook pro to get something that can run your monitor and be a decent computing machine as well. Plus, it’s a laptop, and hot.

  17. You still haven’t got it quite right… there will never be an Intel-based G5, as “G5” refers to the old IBM chip which the Intel chips replace. (You mean to say that there are no Intel-based “PowerMacs” yet.)

    I’m more interested in comparing the performance of the Mac Mini to a budget Windows PC. I think that’s a more fair comparison.

  18. “There will be no Intel-based G5s available until the fall at the earliest.”

    There will never be any Intel-based G5s. Intel doesn’t make G5s, that was IBM & Motorola’s schtick. They are mutually exclusive. That’s like saying you’d like a Mustang Rav4 by Hondayota.

    I’m guessing you mean “Intel-based PowerMac desktops”, in which case there aren’t any currently, but Apple could release one anytime between now and December.

    Or you could do what I did: Get an Intel iMac (17″ or 20″) and hook it up to your external monitor (the Intel iMacs have mini-DVI out, that can be connected to both DVI and VGA displays). Then you have dual-screen goodness in both OS X and Windows.

  19. A friend just IM me this blog and said “Hey, I just bought the same video card as the Mac in the article! How is the inside of the Mac different from any other computer now, I mean its Intel, Nvidia, ram and a hard drive…!”

    I do find that a lot of so called geeks are clueless or cannot fathom any other possibilities, beyond their own little lives which is why you get so many “Why would anyone need to dual boot Win/OSx?” even from media types.

    For Adrian: how many days do you leave your laptop run? I know tons of people who leave their machines run non-stop especially with bit torrent. That’s reason number one.
    I like those cute little laptop HD but still prefer my ‘scuzzy’ one.

    As someone who has build almost every desktop I have owned since my dad gave me his old 286 to take apart, I can not get past the closed nature of Mac’s and the lack of hardware. Like a lot of people, I have this cycle with desktops where I upgrade a few things like video card, ram, fans until my next cpu change. If something fails, I either return it if its under warranty or buy a newer version and then install it myself. I wouldnt recommend that with a laptop.

    I’ll be due for a major upgrade after next Xmas and already did that price comparison thing a few years ago when my buddy had just bought a Mac. For the same price, I built myself a nice AMD desktop and had enough to buy a used Thinkpad to replace the orange Ibook my wife had since I moved her to Linux.

    Would I want to boot 3 different OS? Yes but since its my money, it would have to be on my terms for my needs.
    I might go the ‘illegal’ way (another reason for Apple to bite me…if I buy OSX, I dont care what their EULA says, I can take that Cd and wipe my butt with it, throw it to the dog to play fetch or put it in the cheapest, most generic, all in one $199 mini-tower you have ever seen….with neons on the side) and do it anyways.

    Apple is not an option because it allows for little options. Linux and Windows can work on any configuration of computer possible I can throw at it with all the inherent problems it can bring while to get a sniff at their first decent OS (8-9 were just shitty), I have very little options.

    I like Garageband, it does just what I need it to do but Im not going to spend a fortune just to be able to use it especially since the ‘aesthetics’ would be lost on me since my computer is tucked away under my desk away from kids and cats.
    Whats the point in buying ‘cool’ if no one sees it?

    At least the hardware side will have less of the PowerPC is the best kind of debates. Im gonna miss hearing how Intel sucks (it does), how Firewire is better and all those. Now, its going to be about aesthetics.
    And smugness.

    Never forget the smugness.
    For which I suggest watching South Park 10×02 where Kyle’s dad buys a hybrid car.

    k

  20. keith cohen:
    my laptop is running 24 hours a day, days a week. I also am running bittorrent, and quite frankly I don’t see your point.

    It’s in my bedroom, and it’s far far far less noisy than any desktop / space heater i’ve ever had.

    Keep in mind that my laptop is stationary 99% of the time, except when (like today) I decide to get my breakfast tray out and use my laptop in bed. All this with wireless sound and on ly a power cable needed.

    i envy you that you have enough bandwidth that you need the throughput of a scsi drive. To me having a bunch of external usb drives is far more convenient. I’m waiting for the day when I can have a bunch of wireless usb drives in a cupboard somewhere.

    Also. the mac book pro is apparently plenty fast enough to play most games on the highest settings (stuff like half life 2, battlefield and oblivion) and
    Unless you are into heavy video editing / 3d graphic design / etc. I don’t really see the point of owning a desktop anymore.

    I’m far more of a console gamer though (although that might be because I was a desktop linux user for 8 years before I switched)

    The only reason I want to get a mac book pro over my powerbook at the moment is finally being able to play city of heroes/villains (ye god. it’s spandex. must have), and be able to play spore the moment it’s released.

  21. Keith you hit on the very reason I bought a mac without realizing it – the lack of options. I see it as a good thing, believe it or not, because I want my computer to be the tool that I use to get things done, to be like a toaster where I turn it on and it just works. I don’t want to be inside its guts, I don’t want to see thousands of files that I can’t understand and shouldn’t touch, I don’t want to change the thickness of my scroll bars. I want to do my work, to play some games, to browse the web, to talk to my friends, and so on.

    What I don’t like is tinkering. I don’t like having to do comparison charts like the one that Darren posted to try and unscramble the optimum configuration of components to see what the best price vs. performance vs compaitibility combo would be. And I don’t want to shop on price, because frankly I’ve found that you don’t get what you don’t pay for.

    When I buy a mac, it comes out of the box ready for action. Even the battery is charged. No drivers, no installations. No firewall configuration. No using up a day making sure that my title bar font is just so.

    For hobbyists, for tinkerers, for people who like to play with electronics and don’t mind working over comparison charts to find the perfect combo of components, building your own box is fine. Buying a cheap-ass box and hand-picking components is fine. But for people who just want their computers to work and have things they need to get done with them, it’s worth the extra money for a mac. Which now will run Windows anyway.

  22. Todd: I totally agree, and it’s why I’ll only ever buy Apple laptops. I describe them as being commodified, by which I mean that there are few options, and most of the decisions have been made for me.

    Unfortunately, on the Windows side of things, I still have to worry about the frickin’ hard drive rpms or the amount of RAM on my video card.

  23. I’m totally on-side with Darren about Apple’s laptops. All the disadvantages of Apple desktops — few upgrades, supertight integration, few options — become advantages for laptops. I seriously considered getting a somethingBook last time out, and will be looking at one when my ThinkPad wears out. (I needed a relatively powerful laptop that could work like a desktop; the computers at my then-workplaces sucked and I wanted to bring my own. The ThinkPad was fast, built like a tank and fit my budget; that, and I prefer pointing sticks to touchpads.)

    I’d love to see a ThinkPad subnotebook (2.7 lbs!) running OSX. It may never legally happen, but a geek can dream, can’t he?

  24. I’m thinking I’ll wait until the Intel processors are built into the tower Mac units — then do a thorough comparison of what my expansion and growth options would be if I went Mac vs. PC.

    I’d like to switch to OS X for non-gaming stuff, but one factor is that I already have a ton of money invested in WinXP software — having not owned a Mac before. So it wouldn’t just be a matter of switching to a new hardware platform and OS, it would be a heck of a lot of new software to buy also.

    Of course I could run WinXP on the Mac and use all of that software, but then what would be the point of buying the Mac if all of my productivity software is in WinXP? (Actually for running productivity software in WinXP, I’d get Parallels instead of using Boot Camp, and just run WinXP from inside of OS X.)

    My plan would be to use OS X for everything except games. When I want to game, I’d boot into WinXP. Then I’d have an utterly clean, uncluttered gaming environment in the WinXP partition (or later, in Vista).

    Hardware questions remain, however. There are some smokin’ PCI graphics cards out there now for PCs, like the nVidia 7900 GTX. I don’t see any Mac OSX drivers available for this card. Then there’s SLI — will it ever work on an Intel Mac (nevermind the drivers — would the hardware even function correctly)?

    Lots of questions.

  25. Because boot camp doesn’t run on PowerPCs, get a intel-based, Mac Mini. It would go great with your Cinema Display. I think there is no question that choice is your best.

  26. People do not buy a Mac for its price. It is best not to decide based on price first. First decide on functionality, once you decided either PC or Mac then you can use price comparison site like PriceComparison.com:

    http://www.PriceComparison.com

    To find where the best prices are… Just my 2 cents.

    Zach

  27. Hi Darren and the rest of you:

    I have a question – I need a professional geeks opinion. I had a desktop computer which I sadly lost during a power surge, and so I am in the hunt for a top of the line computer (I have always tried to be modest with my spending and get screwed, so Im all in this time!). I was looking at spending around $3500 this time, so I was going to get either the iMac with all the trimmings, or an AMD X2 with SLI options and a big fat LCD.

    This issue is I need to be able to do some high end video editing, and I have used Final Cut and found it to be the best program to use and the Mac flies with this stuff. But Im also a gamer, and Im wondering how the X1600 256 will go with new games like oblivion… does anyone know what this card compares to… Im an nvidia fan you see, and I had my eyes on the 7900 GTX XXX. But I know that the X1600 doesnt come close.

    I need some advice friends!!!

  28. The reason for the lack of a PowerMac (intel) version is that they’re waiting for the quad core intels to come out. they want the high end desktop to have more computational power than the MacBook Pro (fastest duo-core laptop processor) in 2008 expect to see 8 core Intel PowerMacs. I for one am willing to wait abit longer.

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